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Advanced Tactics for Waterfowl Hunting: Decoy Spreads, Calling Techniques, and More


Waterfowl hunting doesn’t enjoy the popularity of deer hunting, but it does command a loyal audience of adherents who can’t imagine a year without spending a brisk fall morning out on a lake watching the ducks. 

Perhaps one of the reasons that waterfowl hunting doesn’t enjoy the same broad appeal as deer hunting is that it’s often perceived as a simpler game than hunting a buck. In fact, it’s wrong to even compare the two in this way. And while many duck hunters are content to rest on their laurels, pursuing duck in the same way year after year (and who can blame them? It’s a relaxing way to spend a morning), others seek to hone their skills to a razor’s edge.

No matter what kind of duck hunter you are, you can greatly benefit from the introduction of advanced calling strategies, covering decoy setups and other tactics to ensure you have a wildly successful duck hunt every time you head out. 

Mastering Shadows for Stealthy Hunts

Two camouflaged waterfowl hunters

When using top-notch layout blinds as effective waterfowl hides, a crucial detail can make or break your success—managing bird-spooking shadows. Closing the doors on many models can lead to shadows stacking on top of each other.

If your blind is designed this way, it’s vital to close the door nearest to the sun first, allowing the second door to have its edge facing the sun. This prevents a lengthy shadow from running across your blind due to the door overhang. In the world of successful hunting, it’s often the meticulous attention to such details that yields the most significant results.

Additionally, A-frame style blinds, when set up perpendicular to the sun, cast larger shadows. For instance, a 12-foot blind will throw a 12-foot shadow. To minimize this effect, always position the ends of your blind facing the sun during setup.

If your permanent blind casts a substantial shadow, refrain from placing decoys in the shaded area. Birds naturally seek out the sun, and strategically positioning your decoys in the light not only attracts more birds but also enhances their visibility.

For optimizing your hunting schedule, leverage the Huntstand app. Planning a successful hunt requires time and effort, and having insights into factors like cloud cover, wind conditions, and sunlight versus clear skies provides a valuable advantage. Check the app to determine whether your ideal shooting conditions align with morning or evening hunts.

The Decoy Pathway

Wyoming while hunting big-game

Decoying waterfowl becomes more effective when they approach directly into the wind. When birds come from upwind of your decoys, they typically align with your spread, flying directly over blinds. However, there’s a challenge: when birds attempt to land in the decoys, they often get pushed beyond the last string or end up on the outer edge, making them out of reach for hunters. To address this issue and ensure ducks and geese can reach the center of your spread, consider creating a “cut-through” lane.

Implementing the cut-through lane involves removing decoys from a 25- to 30-foot stretch, and providing incoming birds with a runway to access the center of the decoys. This strategy proves especially useful when winds shift during a hunt, causing incoming birds to deviate from the ideal alignment. Think of this maneuver as your waterfowl “air traffic control,” ensuring a direct path for successful decoying.

Enhancing Small Water Decoy Sets with Lifelike Poses

the duck hunt

For those seeking confidence in using keeled floaters to mimic dabbling fakes, the opportunity to avoid the dead-ringer club arises. Full-body duck decoys have expanded their utility beyond dry fields, particularly when one aims to improve small water sets. During a recent scouting session at their preferred shallow slough, the observer noted that only a handful of the three dozen birds present were swimming. The majority were engaged in various puddler postures, from sleeping to standing.

In response, the transformation of the area involved exclusively setting up 12 full-body decoys and two floaters that convincingly imitated real ducks, leaving ample room for company. Options included Mallard, pintail, wigeon, and gadwall full-bodies, each showcasing distinct and visible poses. To further enhance the spread, the number of keels was reduced, and full-body feeders and active decoys were strategically placed on shallows, sandbars, and the water’s edge. A cordless drill was utilized to customize stake holes for perched resters and sleepers on logs, ice, and frozen shorelines.

By getting creative with these lifelike molds and their versatile stakes and bases, one can effectively adapt them to various small water conditions. Achieving the desired trio of “movement, visibility, and realism” becomes straightforward with this approach, ensuring their invitation to waterfowl remains anything but lukewarm.

What tips and tricks have you learned about hunting waterfowl over the years? Leave your secret wisdom in the comments below.


Wildlife Management Decisions Should Be Made by Experts, Not Public Votes


In recent developments, a debate has emerged over whether the public should decide on banning the hunting of mountain lions and bobcats. This matter, experts argue, should be handled by those with specialized knowledge in wildlife management rather than left to popular opinion. State wildlife agencies, which monitor lion populations and set hunting limits, are best equipped to ensure stable wildlife populations.

A campaign is currently underway to ban hunting and trapping of lions, bobcats, and even lynx, despite lynx already being protected by the state. Advocates against hunting are gathering signatures to place this ban on the ballot for a vote this fall.

Colorado residents are urged to reconsider signing this petition. Across western states, decisions like these should remain in the hands of biologists and game managers within state wildlife agencies. Unlike eastern states, many western states permit citizen-initiated ballot measures, allowing the public to make policy decisions on complex issues such as big cat hunting or wolf reintroduction, a process referred to as “ballot box biology.”

Complexities of the Proposed Hunting Ban


The proposed ban presents various complexities. Including lynx with the rest of the big cats (which is only legal to hunt in Alaska) adds confusion. Additionally, the ban aims to prevent the hunting of cougars and bobcats for trophies instead of meat. Colorado hunters must already take all edible meat from their kills of lions, though not for bobcats. Other states, like Montana and Utah, exempt big cats from meat-salvage regulations. However, decisions on how hunters utilize their harvest are best left to experts.

Animal rights activists aim to stop hunting altogether, beginning with species that the public may know little about. The ethics of hunting mountain lions is a nuanced issue that goes beyond a simple ban.

Case Study: California’s Mountain Lion Ban


California provides a relevant case study. The state banned mountain lion hunting long ago. In 2023, California’s wildlife agencies received 515 reports of cougars attacking livestock, issuing 204 “depredation” permits in response. Of these, 39 allowed the animals to be killed, while 165 permitted non-lethal removal.

Biological science dictates that some predators must be hunted to maintain ecological balance, regardless of public sentiment.

Importance of Expert Management

Managing Colorado’s estimated 4,000 mountain lions is a complex task. Hunters must complete a course and pass a test to obtain a hunting license. In the past year, 2,599 hunters killed 502 mountain lions in the state. This hunting helps control the population, preventing an overabundance of deer and elk from being killed by these predators.

Hundreds of biologists work full-time to determine the appropriate number of hunting permits, relying on scientific data rather than public votes. It is crucial that expert biologists retain hunting as a tool for managing mountain lion populations.

Living in Mountain Lion Territory

Residents in mountain lion country frequently encounter signs of these predators, such as deer carcasses in trees and the eerie sounds of mating calls. Despite these experiences, statistics show that bees cause more fatalities than mountain lions. Although mountain lions are dangerous predators, there have been fewer than 30 fatal attacks on humans in the past century.

Hunting these apex predators helps prevent overpopulation, which can lead to overhunting of prey species and increased human-wildlife conflicts. Managing these populations through hunting is a more humane and intelligent approach than allowing overpopulation and subsequent starvation.

The Challenges of Ballot Box Biology

While the practice of ballot box biology is prevalent in the West, it raises concerns about the effectiveness of wildlife management. When asked to sign a petition or vote on wildlife policies, individuals should consider whether they possess the necessary expertise on the subject.

It is essential to trust the policies of state wildlife agencies and the biologists and game managers dedicated to responsibly and sustainably managing wildlife populations.

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The History of Hunting with Firearms

Hunting has been a significant aspect of human history for thousands of years, serving as a means of survival, a sport, and a cultural tradition. In the past, hunting was primarily done with primitive tools such as spears and bows and arrows. However, the development of firearms revolutionized the way we hunt, making the process more efficient and changing the landscape of hunting forever.

The history of hunting with firearms can be traced back to the 14th century when the first gunpowder-powered firearms were developed in China. These early firearms were bulky and inaccurate, but they marked the beginning of a new era in hunting. By the 16th century, firearms had become more refined, with the invention of the matchlock, wheellock, and flintlock mechanisms, which made guns more reliable and easier to use.

With the advancements in firearm technology, hunting became more accessible to a wider range of people. Instead of relying on physical strength and skill with a bow and arrow, hunters could now use firearms to take down game from a distance. This led to an increase in the number of people participating in hunting, both for sport and for sustenance.

In the United States, the history of hunting with firearms played a significant role in the colonization and settlement of the country. During the 18th and 19th centuries, early settlers relied on hunting as a way to supplement their diet and provide for their families. Firearms were crucial tools for survival in the harsh wilderness of North America, allowing settlers to hunt large game such as deer, elk, and bison.

As the 20th century dawned, hunting with firearms continued to evolve with the introduction of new technologies such as rifles with telescopic sights and semi-automatic or fully automatic firearms. These advancements made hunting even more efficient, but also raised concerns about conservation and the ethics of hunting. Regulations were put in place to protect wildlife populations from overhunting and to ensure that hunting was done in a humane and sustainable manner.

Today, hunting with firearms remains a popular pastime for millions of people around the world. Whether it’s for meat, sport, or conservation purposes, hunters continue to use firearms to pursue game in forests, mountains, and plains. Modern firearms are safer and more accurate than ever before, allowing hunters to take down game with precision and efficiency.

The history of hunting with firearms is a rich and complex one, filled with technological advancements, cultural traditions, and ethical considerations. While the way we hunt may have changed over the centuries, the primal urge to pursue wild game and connect with nature remains a fundamental part of the human experience.

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Understanding the Anatomy of Feral Hogs for Optimal Shot Placement


Mammals differ from species to species, but their chest anatomy is remarkably similar. To achieve effective and humane kills, hunters need to understand the anatomy of their game. This article provides a detailed look at the anatomy of feral hogs to better understand where shots will have the most impact. While focusing specifically on hogs, it offers sportsmen guidelines for precise target selection on other game animals as well. Key considerations include the position of the heart and the level of the spine in the forward section of the chest.

Anatomy Insights for Precision

In the provided image, the shoulder has been lifted and the near lung removed to expose the internal anatomy. The heart is situated directly above the rear edge of the leg when the animal is broadside. Main blood vessels enter and exit the top of the heart, making this area a crucial target for a swift kill.

Spine and Chest Considerations


The drop of the spine from the back to the front of the chest is significant. The yellow lines in the image mark the top of the back and the bottom of the chest, showing that in the region of the shoulder, the spine is about halfway between them. The bones of the leg angle forward at a level corresponding to the bottom of the chest, ensuring they don’t block access to the heart.

Weapon Choice and Shot Placement

The hunter’s choice of weapon greatly influences shot placement strategies. A bullet or arrow through the heart causes quick death, but adrenaline release can cause the animal to cover a significant distance in its final moments. Therefore, some rifle hunters prefer to aim for the shoulder blade and spine to anchor the animal on the spot. However, this approach is not recommended for bow hunters.

Targeting the Lungs

The lungs occupy most of the chest cavity back to the diaphragm. Shots that pierce both lungs are quickly fatal. The diaphragm arches forward into the animal’s chest out from where it attaches to the ribcage, and its paunch extends into the same area. The lungs become very thin where the diaphragm meets the ribs, making heart or lung shots ideal for bow hunters.

Precise Shot Placement

The heart sits about a third of the way from the bottom chest’s top, located right above the rear edge of the front leg when the animal is exactly broadside. For a quartering animal, the hunter must judge a spot midway between the backs of the two legs—slightly behind the back edge of the nearest leg for quartering away and in front for quartering toward. 

Anatomical Targets for Effective Shots

During the dissection, the skin on the top of the back was left intact so the shoulder could be laid back into its natural position, allowing a view similar to what a hunter would see. The heart and anterior spine locations are marked, emphasizing the significance of aiming for these areas.

Shots impacting above the spine are unlikely to result in a recovered animal. The heart remains the most reliable target. However, a rifle hunter may aim for the front location marked “spine” to anchor the animal on the spot. The spine is near the top of the back in the abdomen and the rearmost region of the chest. While the back appears to progress forward toward the head in a straight line, this illusion is due to longer and longer fins sticking up from the vertebrae in the forward part of the chest. The spine itself drops low in the chest, typically about halfway down from the top of the back to the bottom of the chest.

Choosing the Right Aimpoint


Choosing the precise aimpoint depends on the hunter’s ability, the weapon, the steadiness of the rest, whether the game is stationary or moving, and the distance to the animal. It is always best to choose targets that inspire the utmost confidence. If conditions diminish the probability of a perfect shot, consider aiming for lethal areas with bigger margins of error. For instance, the heart/lung shot offers more room for error than a spine shot.

Knowing your chest anatomy is helpful for both bow and gun hunters alike when it comes to delivering quick, lethal shots consistently. 

Do you have any tips or insights into shot placement for feral hogs? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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